Hijab: Time to Take a Stand

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It seems that the pro-hijab campaigners are once again being let down – this time by Facebook, but they managed to overcome it.

The movement’s Facebook page, Singapore Hijab Movement, which got over 26,000 likes in just under a week, was supposedly taken down early yesterday morning.

Nevertheless, the movement is quick to swing back into action and re-introduce a new page. As of Friday, 15 November, 2013, at 6:00 p.m., the movement’s refreshed Facebook page has got slightly over 7,000 likes and is growing by the minute.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told local media that while the government understands the community’s views, it also has the responsibility to maintain social harmony. “Every community, when it presses for its own concerns, must bear in mind how that affects other communities and how others might see it,” said Teo.

“That’s the reality of living in a multi-racial, multi-religious society that we all have to internalise,” he added.

Wait, isn’t that something we Singaporeans have heard many, many times before? And other ministers have weighed in on the importance of racial tolerance, however, without really answering the question at large: why Muslim nurses working in frontline roles cannot don the hijab?

“It says a lot for our fragility if our multi-racial and multi-religious society cannot allow Muslim women nurses to wear the hijab at work. I’m sure we’re [much] more resilient than that,” says Nizam Ismail, ex-director of the Association of Muslim Professionals.

Time to act

Singapore is not alone in this hijab debate. The headscarf  has caused quite a stir with politicians around the world sitting up and listening to what pro-hijab campaigners have to say. Here in Singapore, all it takes is for one person to raise a question and the next minute, a Facebook group and an online petition championing the cause materialise.

It has well been more than 10 years since the hijab issue came to light in the Little Red Dot. This time round, and with social media, people are becoming increasingly vocal, isn’t it time for the Government to deal with this issue by saying whether it is for or against nurses wearing the hijab.

Perhaps the Government is worried that if it takes a stand, it might be politically damaging. But then what is the role of the government? Isn’t it to take decisive actions when the situations demand them?

And history shows that the PAP government is not one to shy away from the hard truths of governance. So Prime Minister, we await your decision.